Last Updated: Nov. 23, 4:34 p.m.
At least three business locations in downtown Flagler Beach were the target of anti-Semitic graffiti in Flagler Beach between Sunday and Monday. Flagler Beach police have surveillance footage of the individual, and are looking for the public’s help to identify him.
“Over the last couple of nights the individual in the attached pictures [see above] has used spray paint to air his hate based thoughts on businesses in Flagler Beach,” Police Chief Matt Doughney emailed city staff on Tuesday. “This criminal behavior is 100% unacceptable and he needs to be identified, arrested and held accountable for his actions.”
The businesses vandalized with graffiti include Dollar General on East Moody Boulevard (State Road 100), street-level offices at 204 South Ocean Boulevard, which has residential space on the second floor, and the glass door of the disused Bank of America building on State Road A1A, according to Flagler Beach police incident reports.
Police released stills from surveillance video footage from Poor Walt’s, the bar on State Road 100, believed to be of the man who vandalized the businesses. The man is described in one of the incident reports as being “possibly in his late 30s or early 40s who appeared to be at least 300 pounds wearing a black zip up hoodie, white T-shirt underneath, blue shorts, black and white sneakers.”
A Flagler Beach police officer was at Poor Walt’s, collecting the surveillance video the morning of Nov. 20 and investigating the graffiti at Dollar General, when the owner of the building at 204 South Ocean Shore made contact with the officer to report the vandalism at that building.
The graffiti in every case is hurriedly and sloppily spray-painted with silvery-white paint. In one case, the words “Jen MURDER” (or JEW MURDER) appear sprayed on one side of a business’ side door, with the words “290,000 CHILD KILLERS” on the other side. “JEW CHILD KILLERS” was spray-painted on the glass doors of the old Bank of America building, with an incomprehensible word that may or may not be “PAIN.”
The graffiti at Dollar General, a variation on the graffiti at the other locations, had been hurled there not long before 10 p.m. on Sunday night in a much larger-sized affront–10 feet long and 6 to 8 feet high. A customer notified the manager. The paint was on the front of the building, facing the boulevard. The obscenities were still wet to the touch when a police officer went to investigate. The business owners are all pursuing charges, if the offender is identified.
Antisemitism was significantly on the rise in 2022 and 2023 in the United States and elsewhere even before the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians and others in south Israel, and the subsequent Israeli assault on Palestinians in Gaza. Antisemitism has surged further since. The current issue of L’Express, the leading French newsweekly, states on its cover in bold letters: “For the first time since 1945, a lot of French Jews are fearful to the point of hiding.” The cover is a mirror of a PBS story in the United States (“Jewish Americans are ‘terrified’ amid rising anti-Semitic attacks. How can they feel safe?”), except that the PBS story had run in January 2022.
In late October the ADL (Anti Defamation League, the civil rights advocacy group that specializes in combating antisemitism), reported that incidents of antisemitic “harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent over the same period last year,” just in the period between Oct. 7 and Oct. 25. The incidents include death threats and assaults against Jewish individuals.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy organization that documents bigotry against Arabs and Muslims, has documented what it calls an “unprecedented surge” of incidents of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bias, including allusions to a plot to kill U.S. Rep. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has been critical of the Israeli assault.
Hate crimes or hate incidents that could not be prosecuted as crimes have been relatively infrequent in Flagler County. In February 2022, dozens of anti-Semitic fliers tied to pro-Trump, anti-Biden rhetoric were dropped in driveways in Palm Coast and in Ormond Beach by unknown persons. The acts could not be prosecuted, law enforcement said at the time, because they were protected by the First Amendment. The graffiti in Flagler Beach is not so protected because it is vandalism on business and private property. As such, the crimes could be prosecuted both as vandalism and as hate crimes, which would aggravated the charges.
The Flagler Beach City Commission met in special session on Tuesday evening. Though every commission member had been made aware of the crimes by the fire chief’s email, it let the incidents pass without mention, let alone denunciation. The meeting was focused on New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Former City Commissioner Ken Bryan, who stepped down from the commission less than a year ago after one term, was disappointed by the commission’s silence. “I called the city manager prior to the special meeting,” he said on Wednesday, “and expressed my concerns because no one in city leadership had made a public denouncement and outrage of these acts. I asked the city manager to ask the chairman, mayor or himself to make a public statement letting the public know we denounce and regret something like this has occurred in our city. I did also tell him that if I was still a commissioner or chairman, I would make a statement at the end of the special meeting Tuesday. They blew it off and I as well as many others are disappointed in their failure to respond.”
Cooley said he plans to address the matter at a business meeting next week. “I told the CM anyone is welcome to cover it, but I planned to cover that under the general business meeting,” Cooley said, referring to the city manager’s title by initials.
If you know the identity of the person pictured above, please contact the Flagler Beach Police Department by phone at (386) 517-2020, or by e-mail at [email protected]. If you prefer, you can contact Crime Stoppers of North East Florida. You can call Crimestoppers at 1-888-277-8477 or you can submit a tip online at; http://www.northeastflorida.crimestoppersweb.com/sitemenu.aspx?ID=231&